Basque Chicken and Irouléguy, Perfect Winter Dish on the Hottest Day of the Summer #winophiles

French #Winophiles Search for Irouléguy
This month our French Winophiles are out in search of Irouléguy, the noteworthy wine from the French Basque region.

See the tiny light green spot in the southwest corner of the map? That’s Pays Basque, home of Irouléguy. map courtesy of

Irouléguy = Snipe Hunt for the French #Winophiles
If you went to summer camp as a child, you might have participated in a snipe hunt. Snipes are rare creatures, only venturing out at night. Camp kids love to catch them after dark. One camper (always a first timer, hint) sits in the dark holding a large burlap sack. The other campers venture out to drive the snipes to the new camper ready to bag one.  Of course, there are no snipes, only cold lonely first time campers literally left holding the bag.  This is a little like hunting for Irouléguy in an American wine shop. To begin with, there isn’t much of it and even less makes its’ way to the US.

Domaine Ilaria makes a lovely, rustic Irouléguy. It’s a shame it’s difficult to find in the US.

Domaine Ilaria in the Pays Basque
Back in the twelfth century the monks of the Abbey of Roncesvalles developed the vineyards in the region of Irouleguy. The village was located on one of the few passes through the Pyrénées on the westerly route of the Way of St. James from all over Europe, converging on the Camino de Santiago.

Domaine Ilaria is located on 30 hectares (ha) of land with a total of 10 ha under vine. The red wine grapes grown include Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. They have a very nice website here (use Google Chrome or to see it in English). They are certified organic in their farming, and they strive to take as natural an approach as possible, guided by the principles promoted by Masanobu Fukuoka.

Domaine Ilarria Irouléguy AOC 2015 ($25 at France 44 or online here) 12.5% abv
When I see a wine described as “rustic” I know I’ll enjoy it. Not too polished, somehow seems true to me. Rustic wines love home cooked dishes, stews, one pot meals.

Eye: Clear, medium ruby with a purple rim. Light staining with medium legs
Nose: Clean, ripe blue and black fruit: blueberries, blackberries, plum. Notes of pine needles, clean earth, black pepper.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ flavor intensity. Medium acidity, medium+ tannins, fine grained and pleasant. Rich texture with medium+ body, medium alcohol. Delicious wine, will be better on a cool fall evening rather than the hottest day of the year, but I still enjoyed it very much! The ripe dark flavors of blueberries, blackberries with the piney notes come across in the mouth with additional spiciness. Nice medium+ finish. This wine reminds me of a nice Cotes du Rhone wine with a bit more backbone from tannins due to the Tannat grapes in the blend.

Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Sec AOC “Chant des Vignes” 2015 ($17 locally at Henry and Son, online here) 14%abv
Eye: Clear, pale gold with medium legs
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Aromas of overripe pears, apricots, peaches. Sweet honeysuckle and a touch of wet wool. From the fruit and floral nose, I could imagine the wine being sweet.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ flavor intensity. Rich, creamy texture with medium acidity, medium+ body and medium+ alcohol. Rich fruity flavors of pears, apricots, peaches carry through in the flavor as well as the honeysuckle. Medium length finish. I have to admit, while this wine is exactly what Jurançon Sec should be, I just didn’t care for it.

Chicken thighs, pork sausage, some piment d’Espelette makes a perfect rustic stew for cold weather. Diced green apples are a surprisingly nice topping.

It’s Not Winter in Minnesota Yet!
In searching for Basque recipes, I was specifically looking for a dish which would pair nicely with my Irouléguy wine. I thought Basque Braised Chicken with Peppers (Chicken Basquaise) from Saveur would be perfect. Chicken, sausage, peppers, a little spice, what could go wrong? Well, nothing went wrong. The dish was delicious and it paired beautifully with the Irouléguy wine, and the Jurançon Sec as well. This is a perfect dish for the fall and winter. I just happened to serve it on the hottest, muggiest, most humid day of summer in Minnesota. Oops! We froze the leftovers, they’ll be perfect come October!

French Winophiles Uncover French Basque Wines
Curious about the French Basque region? Join our chat on August 17, at 10am CDT. Just look for the hashtag #winophiles on Twitter and you’ll find us.




9 Responses to “Basque Chicken and Irouléguy, Perfect Winter Dish on the Hottest Day of the Summer #winophiles”
  1. Sounds like (mostly) everything turned out wonderfully despite it being the hottest day of the year Jeff. We loved the Cauhape! Cheers my friend!

  2. culinarycam says:

    I love that we had similar ideas on the food and the wine…yours was one year older in vintage than mine. Sorry about it being the hottest day of the year. But I’ll bet you can’t wait to thaw that out when the weather cools. Thanks for hosting this month, Jeff.

  3. Looks good, Jeff! And I feel your pain about Irouléguy being so hard to find. I’m a lot closer to France but even here, it’s terribly hard to find…

  4. Wow! What a glorious pairing! I realize you were sweating while enjoying it, but you have us all set with a great pairing for the fall! I agree whole heartedly on your feeling toward “rustic” wines and your description of the Domaine Ilarria Irouléguy makes is sound heavenly. Are the pine notes typical for the wines of this region?

  5. Well you’ll have something to look forward to this winter! PS Living here on the coast, by dinnertime it can be 80 degrees or 65 and foggy!

  6. Jane says:

    The rustic Irouléguy looks like the perfect wine to pair with Basque braise chicken and peppers. I think your wait for MN winter will not be long now!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] to Jeff Burrows from Food Wine Click, for hosting. If you read this in time, join the Twitter Chat (#Winophiles) on Saturday August 17, […]

  2. […] Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Basque Chicken and Irouléguy, Perfect Winter Dish on the Hottest Day of the Summer” […]

  3. […] Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Basque Chicken and Irouléguy, Perfect Winter Dish on the Hottest Day of the Summer” […]

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